The team operating NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover on Mars has selected a second target rock for drilling and sampling. The rover will set course to the drilling location in coming days. This second drilling target, called “Cumberland,” lies about nine feet (2.75 meters) west of the rock where Curiosity’s drill first touched Martian stone in February. Curiosity took the first rock sample ever collected on Mars from that rock, called “John Klein.” The rover found evidence of an ancient environment favorable for microbial life. Both rocks are flat, with pale veins and a bumpy surface. They are embedded in a layer of rock on the floor of a shallow depression called “Yellowknife Bay.”
(Photo Description: This map shows the location of “Cumberland,” the second rock-drilling target for NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity, in relation to the rover’s first drilling target, “John Klein,” within the southwestern lobe of a shallow depression called “Yellowknife Bay.” Cumberland, like John Klein, is a patch of flat-lying bedrock with pale veins and bumpy surface texture. The bumpiness is due to erosion-resistant nodules within the rock, which have been identified as concretions resulting from the action of mineral-laden water.
North is to the top of the map. The scale bar is 50 meters (164 feet). Cumberland lies about nine feet (2.75 meters) west of John Klein. The base map is part of an image from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The mapped area is within Gale Crater and north of the mountain called Mount Sharp in the middle of the crater. After completion of investigations near the edge of Yellowknife Bay, the rover’s main science destination will be on the lower reaches of Mount Sharp. For broader-context views of the area, see PIA16832, PIA16064 and PIA16058.)
This second drilling is intended to confirm results from the first drilling, which indicated the chemistry of the first powdered sample from John Klein was much less oxidizing than that of a soil sample the rover scooped up before it began drilling.
“We know there is some cross-contamination from the previous sample each time,” said Dawn Sumner, a long-term planner for Curiosity’s science team at the University of California at Davis. “For the Cumberland sample, we expect to have most of that cross-contamination come from a similar rock, rather than from very different soil.”
Although Cumberland and John Klein are very similar, Cumberland appears to have more of the erosion-resistant granules that cause the surface bumps. The bumps are concretions, or clumps of minerals, which formed when water soaked the rock long ago. Analysis of a sample containing more material from these concretions could provide information about the variability within the rock layer that includes both John Klein and Cumberland.
Mission engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., recently finished upgrading Curiosity’s operating software following a four-week break. The rover continued monitoring the Martian atmosphere during the break but the team did not send any new commands because Mars and the sun were positioned in such a way the sun could have blocked or corrupted commands sent from Earth.
Curiosity is about nine months into a two-year prime mission since landing inside Gale Crater on Mars. After the second rock drilling in Yellowknife Bay and a few other investigations nearby, the rover will drive toward the base of Mount Sharp, a 3-mile (5-kilometer) tall layered mountain inside the crater.
JPL manages the Mars Science Laboratory Project, of which Curiosity is the centerpiece, for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.
For more information about the mission, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/msl
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